132 Annual Meeting Logo - Go to APHA Meeting Page  
APHA Logo - Go to APHA Home Page

Global Nutrition Transition: Health Impacts

Robert S. Lawrence, MD, Office of Professional Practice and Programs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Suite W1033, Baltimore, MD 21205, (410) 614-4590, rlawrenc@jhsph.edu

The spread of Western dietary patterns to cultures where grains and vegetables have traditionally been the source of protein and complex carbohydrates has had a dramatic impact on our understanding of how diet and disease are so closely interconnected. As we become increasingly aware of the finite limits to the carrying capacity of the planet, the inefficiency of converting eight or nine kilograms of grain protein into one kilogram of animal protein for human consumption (in the form of beef protein, less grain required per kilogram of pork or poultry) would by itself be sufficient argument against continuation of our present dietary habits. But this transition to a diet high in animal protein is also associated with increased chronic disease that will tax the capacity of health care systems, locally and globally. As demonstrated in comparative nutrition studies in China, the consumption by Americans of excessive amounts of animal protein and fat accounts for much of our increased burden of chronic degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Additionally, the societal and moral costs of this nutrition transition are not being taken into account in the global marketplace - the linkages among unhealthy diets, animal exploitation, and environmental degradation are powerful and often synergistic. These same linkages also hold promise for workable solutions to planetary overload, for mobilizing coalitions of single-interest groups, for translation of science into public policy and information for advocacy, and for an entry point to interrupt the “vicious spiral."

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Food Security, Environment

Related Web page: www.jhsph.edu/environment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I have a significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
Relationship: Appointment and employment

The Vicious Spiral: Population Growth, Nutritional Needs and Environmental Degradation

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA